Show of 07-20-2019

 TECH TALK

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments taken from previous shows.

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz, Last week I asked you about the address line of my iPad when looking at a site. “Not Secure – dslreports.com” & “Not Secure – espn.com” as examples. When I put the SSL before <dslreports.com> it returns to the non-SLL site. I can change it to the SDL version. Funny: when I put the dslreports into DuckDuckGo, I can get the SDL version. When I put techtalk.stratford.edu into DuckDuckGo, the response is the same as below. Why does it keep going to the non-SLL Not Secure site? Many thanks for any resolution you may have. I’d like to use the secure connections when available. Arnie in Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can configure your browser to either enable or disable SSL. I am not certain what browser you are using. Your browser is probably configured properly. It is easy to change. Look around the setting and options section of your browser.
  • For instance, these are the steps you would take to configure Internet Explorer.
      • Open Internet Explorer
      • Click Tools
      • Click Internet Options
      • Click the Advanced tab
      • Check or uncheck the options for Use SSL 2.0 and Use SSL 3.0
      • Click OK
  • These are the steps you would take to configure Chrome
      • Open Google Chrome
      • Click the Chrome menu button
      • Click Settings.
      • Scroll down to System or enter Proxy into the Search settings field.
      • Click Open proxy settings.
      • Click the Advanced tab
      • Check or uncheck the options for Use SSL 2.0 and Use SSL 3.0
  • SSL is enabled by default in the Safari browser and cannot be disabled.
  • Email from Ken Hutchinson: Shurtz, Can you explain why it required a huge number of hard drives, a special algorithm that had to be developed, several supercomputers, and years of calculations to arrive at the image of the black hole that was revealed this week? Was that image possible because the black hole’s accretion disk is almost perpendicular to our line of sight? Ken Hutchinson
  • Tech Talk Responds: The black hole that was imaged this week was supermassive M87, which is about 6.5 billion times the mass of Earth’s sun and is a 53.5 million light-years away. It is equivalent to viewing a donut on the surface of the moon.
  • To observe the supermassive black, the Event Horizon Telescope team had to turn Earth into a virtual telescope platform by using an array of instruments across the world. EHT used eight radio telescopes from around the world – Chile (2), Spain, Mexico, Arizona, Hawaii (2), Anartica). They had to use radio telescopes because the longer wavelength can penetrate the Universe. Visible radio would be fully absorbed. They combined the images of these telescopes to create a virtual telescope. As the earth moved the sensors moved to fill in more of the Earth’s disk. They collected data over a one week period in April 2017. The 5 petabytes of data from that one week of observations was stored on half a ton on hard drives.
  • The algorithm used to calculate the image is named CHIRP (Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors) was needed to combine data from the eight radio telescopes around the world working under Event Horizon Telescope, the international collaboration that captured the black hole image, and turn
  • Since astronomical signals reach the radio telescopes at slightly different rates, the researchers had to figure out how to account for that so calculations would be accurate and visual information could be extracted.
  • Because the image is so sparsely populated, the image is not necessarily unique. They had to guess image outputs that would be consistent with the data. They had to do it in a way that would not bias the result. It took many supercomputer and two years to consider all of the possible solutions.
  • The black hole looks like a blank disk, silhouetted by the light generated by the accretion layer that surrounds the sphere. From a distance, it looks like a donut.
  • Gina in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. A friend of mine had her Facebook account stolen and she is having trouble getting it back. Now I am worried about my account. Can I do something to keep my account more secure? Enjoy the podcast. Gina in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: There are several things you can do to lock down your account such as choosing a strong, yet easy to remember password and choosing a secret question that even those who know you best won’t be able to guess, but if you really want to secure your Facebook account from hackers you should enable two-factor authentication. If this is enabled, ehenever you want to log into your account, Facebook will text a unique security code to your mobile phone. You read the text from Facebook and enter the security code to finish the login process.
  • If you’d like to enable two-factor authentication on your own Facebook account, you can easily do so. Just follow the steps below for the device you’re using:
      • Log in to your Facebook account (if you aren’t logged in already).
      • Click the down arrow on the right side of the blue bar near the top of the screen.
      • Click Settings.
      • In the far left-hand column, click Security and login.
      • Find the line labeled “Use Two-Factor Authentication” and click the Edit link in the far right-hand column and then follow the directions from there.
  • You can follow similar process with your mobile app. From now on a person will need physical access to your mobile phone before they’ll be allowed to log into to your Facebook account (even if they know your password).
  • Question from Andy in Leesburg: Dear Doc and Jim. I need help with my Internet issue. Several websites that used to load just fine won’t load anymore. They either just sit there and try to load forever or I get an error message. Most websites still load ok. It is just a handful of specific sites that won’t load. I don’t think it’s a problem with my web browser because the same sites fail to load no matter which browser I try. I also don’t think it’s a problem with my Internet connection because all the other computers in the house will load these websites with no problem. Can you please help me fix this? My computer is a Lenovo laptop with Windows 10. Andy in Leesburg
  • Tech Talk Responds: There are several possible issues that can cause this type of problem, but I think you’ve already ruled out two of them since you’ve tried multiple browsers and the other computers in your house are working normally.
  • One possibility is your PC has a malware infection that’s hijacking your web browsers (or at least attempting to). The first thing I recommend that you do is run all the scans mentioned in this post to track down and remove any malware that might have made its way onto your hard drive.
  • If that doesn’t fix the problem, the next thing to try is flushing your computer’s DNS cache. The data contained in the DNS cache helps your computer quickly locate and navigate to your favorite websites, but if some of the entries in the cache become corrupted or outdated your browser won’t be able to “find” those sites.
  • Follow the steps below to flush the DNS cache on your machine:
      • Sign into Windows with an Administrator account.
      • Press the Windows+S key combination to open a Search box.
      • Type cmd into the Search box, then right-click on Command Prompt and select Run as administrator from the drop-down menu.
      • In the command box, type ipconfig /flushdns and then press enter.
  • Your computer’s DNS cache should now be clear and ready to start collecting a fresh batch of entries as you surf the Internet.
  • Email from Dave in Chantilly: Dear Tech Talk. I took your advice and replaced the hard drive in my laptop with an SSD to make it run faster. Everything seems to be working ok and the speed increase was incredible, but I’m worried that I might have possibly damaged something while I was swapping out the drives. What happened was I forgot to remove the battery from the laptop and completed the entire procedure with it still inside the laptop. Do you think there’s a chance that I damaged something enough to make it stop working later even though it still works ok right now? Dave in Chantilly
  • Tech Talk Responds: I believe your laptop will be just fine. You didn’t mention whether you had powered the machine down before swapping out the drives, but I’m sure you probably did since the lid would have almost certainly been closed.
  • If that’s the case, it’s highly unlikely that anything inside your laptop sustained any damage while you were working on its innards. However, if the laptop was powered up when you removed the hard drive and installed the SSD in its place then there is always a chance that a momentary power spike could have caused some damage.
  • While it’s always good practice to remove a laptop’s battery before removing or installing any internal components, I believe it’s very unlikely that you damaged your laptop while swapping the drives out.
  • Email from Kevin in Nokesville: Dear Doc and Jim. I occasionally download a file from the Internet and am worried that I might be introducing malware into my computer. Is there a way to scan the file before I open to make certain that it is clean? Love the podcast. Kevin in Nokesville
  • Tech Talk Responds: First, you can scan the file with the antivirus software that’s installed on your PC without having to scan your entire computer.
  • First option: Simply right-click on the file and then select Scan with your installed antivirus program.
  • Second option: You could also use a web service called VirusTotal will quickly scan any file on your system. VirusTotal inspects items with over 70 antivirus scanners and URL/domain blacklisting services. Either drag the file you wish to scan into the selection box or click Choose File and navigate to it. After all the scans have been completed you’ll be presented with a summary page containing the results of all the individual scans.
  • Web address: https://www.virustotal.com/
  • Email from Micheal in New Jersey: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a Facebook friend that is annoying and their posts are getting on my nervesThey post a hundred status updates a day filled with meaningless comments. Is there a way to block his/her posts without having to actually unfriend them. Micheal in New Jersey
  • Tech Talk Responds: You do not have to unfriend a problem friend on Facebook to keep their posts out of your newsfeed. You can simply unfollow them instead!
    • Go to your annoying friend’s Timeline page.
    • Hover your mouse over the “Following” button and select Unfollow at the bottom of the drop-down menu.
    • His/her posts will no longer show up in your news feed.
  • However, your friend will still be able to tag you in posts, post directly onto your Timeline and send you private messages unless you change your privacy settings to prevent those actions.

Profiles in IT: Daniel Stewart Butterfield

  • Daniel Stewart Butterfield is a Canadian entrepreneur best known for being a co-founder of the photo sharing website Flickr and team messaging application Slack.
  • Butterfield was born in Lund, British Columbia in 1973 and grew up for the first three years of his life in a log cabin without running water while living in a commune.
  • His family moved to Victoria, British Columbia, when Butterfield was five years old. His dad had moved to Canada to avoid the VN draft. As a kid, Butterfield taught himself how to code.
  • Butterfield was educated at St. Michaels University School in Victoria. He made money in university designing websites.
  • In 1996, he received a B.A. degree in philosophy from the University of Victoria in 1996.
  • In 1998, he earned a Master of Philosophy from the University of Cambridge, where he specialized in the philosophy of biology, cognitive science, and the philosophy of mind.
  • In 2000, Butterfield worked with a friend to build a startup called Gradfinder.com.
  • Following Gradfinder.com’s sale, he worked as a freelance web designer.
  • In 2000 in San Francisco, he met a blogger named Caterina Fake. They married in 2002.
  • In 2002, he co-founded Ludicorp with Caterina Fake and Jason Classon to develop a massively multiplayer online game called Game Neverending. It was a financial failure. They created photo-sharing website Flickr was based on a set of features broken out of the game.
  • Flickr was innovation (data share API, tagging, friends, hashtags, ideas from the commune)
  • In March 2005 Ludicorp was acquired by Yahoo! For $25M, where Butterfield continued as the General Manager of Flickr until he left Yahoo on July 12, 2008.
  • In 2006, he was named in the “Time 100”, Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and also appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine.
  • After quiting Yahoo!, he started Tiny Speck to continue work on his Neverending game. This time he called it Glitch, it looked amazing and had a vividly imagined story line. He raised $17.5M and the game launched in 2011. The game failed again financially in 2012.
  • Then (again!) he broke out something he and his team had created while making the game.
  • In August 2013, Butterfield announced the release of Slack, an instant-message-based team communication tool built by Tiny Speck while working on Glitch.
  • Slack is designed to be the hub at the center of all your other business software. It ties in to many applications: Dropbox, Google Apps, GitHub, Heroku, and Zendesk to name a few.
  • Once they’re all connected, it can keep track of most everything you do with them. It includes a powerful search tool and a create chat client.
  • After its public release in February 2014, the tool grew at a weekly rate of 5 to 10 percent, with more than 120,000 daily users registered in the first week of August 2014.
  • By 2014, Slack had earned US$1.5M and raised US$60M in venture capital.
  • By 2015, Slack had raised US$340M in venture capital and had more than 2 million daily active users, of which 570,000 were paid customers.
  • In 2015, Slack was named Inc. Magazine’s Company of the Year.
  • In 2015, Stewart was named the Wall Street Journal’s Technology Innovator and was awarded TechCrunch’s Founder of the Year Crunchie.
  • He always felt he sold Flickr to early. Now he wants to build Slack into something as pervasive as Microsoft, except one that you can love.

Rechargeable Battery Can Last 400 Years

  • In 2016, a battery that lasts a whole lifetime was created by Mya Le Thai, the former PhD from UC Irvine.
  • She made the discovery while studying the properties of gold nanowire for commercial batteries. Typically, the gold filaments lose their integrity (and the battery dies) after 5,000 to 6,000 recharge cycles.
  • Nanowire is thousands of times thinner than a human hair; the increased surface area of the microscopic wire allows greater storage and transferring capacity for electrons. Researchers have been trying to use the material for a long time.
  • By coating the gold nanowire in a type of electrolyte gel, Thai was able to create a circuit that withstood an unprecedented 200,000 charge cycles in the span of three months of testing, during which time there was no loss in performance, nor were any nanowires fractured by repeated use.
  • Mya had just been “playing around” when she made the discovery by applying the gel.
  • Thai’s invention could eventually lead to a commercial battery that never requires a replacement. They could be used to power everything from computers to phones, from cars and appliances to spacecraft.
  • The researchers at UC Irvine still don’t know why the electrolyte gel preserves the gold nanowire even under so much use.

Why Tens of Thousands of Donated iPhones Are Destroyed

  • Tens of thousands of perfectly usable iPhones are scrapped each year by electronics recyclers because of the iPhone’s activation lock.
  • The iPhone’s activation lock is an anti-theft feature that prevents new accounts from logging into iOS without the original user’s iCloud password.
  • This means that stolen phones can’t be used by the person who stole it without the original owner’s iCloud password
  • The feature makes the iPhone a less valuable theft target.
  • Between 2015 and 2018, the Wireless Alliance, the recycling company in question, collected roughly 6 million cell phones in donation boxes it set up around the country.
  • Of those, 333,519 of them were iPhones deemed by the company to be “reusable.”
  • However, 33,000 of them were iCloud locked. Last year, a quarter of all reusable iPhones it collected were activation locked.
  • Apple should work with certified recyclers to unlock phones that have been legitimately donated.

Thousands of Employees Listen your Alexa Conversations

  • Not only is Alexa listening when you speak to an Echo smart speaker, an Amazon employee is potentially listening, too.
  • Amazon employs a global team that transcribes the voice commands captured after the wake word is detected and feeds them back into the software to help improve Alexa’s grasp of human speech so it can respond more efficiently in the future.
  • Amazon reportedly employs thousands of full-time workers and contractors in several countries, including the United States, Costa Rica and Romania, to listen to as many as 1,000 audio clips in shifts that last up to nine hours.
  • Amazon confirmed to CNN Business that it hires people to listen to what customers say to Alexa. But Amazon said it takes “security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously.
  • The company said it only annotates an extremely small number of interactions from a random set of customers.
  • The report said Amazon doesn’t “explicitly” tell Alexa users that it employs people to listen to the recordings.
  • Amazon said in its frequently asked question section that it uses “requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems.”
  • People can opt out of Amazon using their voice recordings to improve the software in the privacy settings section of the Alexa app.
  • Alexa auditors don’t have access to the customers’ full name or address, but do have the device’s serial number and the Amazon account number associated with the device.

How to Stop Amazon from Listening to your Alexa recordings

  • There is a way to stop Amazon from listening in on your Alexa conversations.
    • Open the Alexa App.
    • Open the menu in the upper left corner and click on settings
    • In the settings menu, select the option that says Alexa Account
    • Under the Alexa Account Menu, Select the option that says Alexa Privacy
    • The Alexa Privacy menu is where you can tell Amazon that you don’t want them using your voice recordings for research and development purposes.
    • To disable the setting, click on Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa. Then, where it says Help Develop New Features, slide the switch into the off position.
    • A prompt might come up asking you to confirm your selection, and you’ll have to confirm that you want to turn this setting off.
    • In Alexa Privacy menu, you can also view a history of all your recorded interactions with Alexa and delete that history. Under Manage Skills Permissions, you can find out which skills have requested permission to access data like your address, name, Amazon pay, phone number, and email.

Project Kuiper: Amazon’s Satellite High Speed Internet

  • com plans to build a massive network of 3,000+ satellites to provide high-speed internet for the masses.
  • The project is intended to give a big boost to broadband speeds, connectivity and low-latency internet for people who still lack basic access to it worldwide.
  • The constellation is planned as a network of 784 satellites at the lowest altitude (590 kilometres), 1,296 satellites at the next-highest altitude (610 kilometres) and the remaining 1,156 floating at the highest (630 kilometres) orbit above the Earth.
  • If all goes to plan, Project Kuiper will have a reach, with its broadband coverage area, that spans roughly 95 percent of the global population.
  • Project Kuiper gets its name from a region of the Solar System that exists beyond the eight major planets. The Kuiper belt is similar to the asteroid belt, in that it contains many small bodies, all of which are remnants from the solar system’s formation.
  • In November, Amazon announced that it would build 12 ground stations to transmit data to and from satellites, indicating grander space ambitions.
  • With this project, Amazon will join many other big and small names in the race to provide global, affordable broadband access. SpaceX and Airbus-backed OneWeb have already announced similar projects to provide inexpensive for the masses.